There is no discussion of fandom - or even the practice of shipping. It is an analysis of what Harry desires and how Ginny meets those needs. While Harry's friendship with Hermione is mentioned - and I explain why he is not attracted to her - it is not intended to be inflammatory - and doesn't bash in any way, shape or form.
Hope you enjoy.
Thanks to Loony Phoenix – this was different from the usual stuff I dump on him. I try to keep him entertained with fluff and comedy – so extra special thanks for taking on this dryer exercise with barely any notice.
(All page references are to the original British editions of the series, published in Canada by Raincoast Books.)
Why Harry Picked Ginny, Rather Than Hermione, As A Romantic Partner
An Analysis of Sexual Attraction and Humour
Harry Potter has had the benefit of a most excellent female friend since he was eleven years old. Hermione Granger has given him moral support, excellent advice and loyalty. Her brains have saved him many times. Harry cares for her a great deal and needs her in his life. She has sworn to remain at his side during his quest to finally rid the world of Voldemort. She even attempted to explain the mysterious ways of girls to him when he was fifteen. Yet at sixteen, Harry picked Ginny Weasley to be his romantic partner. Why?
The explanation is very simple - Harry has a very strong sexual desire for Ginny. He has no such feelings for Hermione.
Sex is a fundamental aspect of adult relations. Sex is, in fact, the characteristic that defines the difference between a platonic relationship and a romantic one.
This statement is not to suggest that sex is the most important element when selecting a mate. It is, obviously, entirely possible to desire someone with whom a relationship would be otherwise flawed. Relationships based entirely on sexual appetite eventually die out - it isn’t enough. The keys to a healthy, harmonious, long-term commitment have to do with sharing similar and compatible value systems and forms of communication.
But sex is also a key factor. A relationship where the sex doesn’t work is frustrating and less fulfilling. It can even lead to bitterness and resentment. Sex is a very basic human need - it makes us feel good. We take comfort from physical contact and it makes us happy. And in an even more practical sense - a couple that doesn’t enjoy each other physically is going to have a very hard time sharing a bathroom and a bed.
Harry is not sexually attracted to Hermione - he never has been. He does acknowledge that she is pretty at the Yule Ball. Hermione even earns a full paragraph describing everything from her hair to her dress to her teeth. (GoF 360) Later, in Order of the Phoenix, Harry confirms, for the record, that he doesn’t find her ugly. (OotP 505) But these moments are not true indicators of physical attraction - in neither instance does Harry have a physiological response. Rowling makes the difference very clear when she describes Harry’s reaction to other girls.
When Harry meets Cho Chang the moment is marked by his attraction to her. Rowling writes, “Harry couldn’t help noticing, nervous as he was, that she was extremely pretty. She smiled at Harry as the teams faced each other behind their captains, and he felt a slight jolt in the region of his stomach that he didn’t think had anything to do with nerves.” (PoA 192) This is the first time Harry has noticed a girl in the romantic sense and the scene defines how Harry will react when he has a physical response to someone - and it is a response the reader should be watching for in the future.
Harry does not have this reaction to Hermione. When she kisses him at the end of their forth year, Harry merely notes, “...she did something she had never done before, and kissed him on the cheek.” (GoF 636) There is no jolt in his stomach, or tingling hairs standing on end. Harry does not react to Hermione in a sexual nature at all.
Even though he does respond to Cho, their relationship ultimately fails for a number of reasons - not the least of which is connected to grief and guilt over Cedric’s death. The emotional dynamic between Harry and Cho is far too complicated. In the end, when Harry gets to know her, Cho isn’t everything Harry desires. The breakdown of their romance is also a fine example of the fact that sex isn’t everything - though he was attracted to Cho, it wasn’t enough.
So what is Harry searching for?
It’s not all about looks. Again, Harry doesn’t find Hermione ugly and he doesn’t seem to find it shocking when other boys do express an interest in her – Viktor, Ron or McLaggen. Hermione’s appearance is not the reason Harry is not attracted to her.
Harry derives pleasure from humour.
This aspect of his personality shouldn’t be a shock. Since the moment we met him Harry has used his own sense of humour as his key survival mechanism. When describing Harry’s spoiled rotten cousin Dudley, Rowling writes, “He had a large, pink face, not much neck, small watery blue eyes and thick, blond hair that lay smoothly on his thick, fat head. Aunt Petunia often said that Dudley looked like a baby angel - Harry often said that Dudley looked like a pig in a wig.” (PS 21) Later, as Harry is lying, freezing and hungry, on the hard floor of the cabin on the rock at sea, it is noted, “Harry heard something creak outside. He hoped the roof wasn’t going to fall in, although he might be warmer if it did.” (PS 38) Harry uses his dark sense of humour as a defence to help him emotionally survive his own miserable circumstances.
Harry acknowledges his desire for humour as one of his most basic needs after the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Facing the return of Voldemort, on the verge of war, he gives his winnings to the twins to use as start up for their joke shop. He offers the explanation, “...I could do with a few laughs. We could all do with a few laughs. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to need them more than usual before long.” (GoF 635) Harry turns to humour as his main desire, that he would pay a thousand galleons for, in order to find some pleasure in the face of the coming dark.
Soon after these events Rowling specifically makes the connection between Harry’s humour and romance during his relationship with Cho. After kissing Cho, and faced with the prospect of asking her out, Harry considers, “Yes, he had liked Cho for ages, but whenever he had imagined a scene involving the two of them it had always featured a Cho who was enjoying herself, as opposed to a Cho who was sobbing uncontrollably into his shoulder.” (OoTP 407) It’s a fairly understandable expectation - to have a partner who enjoys herself in his presence, but the sentiment gets to the heart of Harry’s biggest disappointment in the matter. When he finally gets to be with Cho, something he had been hoping for, for years, they never have any fun.
The lack of fun is one of the main causes of the break down of Harry and Cho’s romance. This idea is reinforced later by Ron. Learning that the relationship has been abandoned, Ron responds, “You’re well out of it, mate... I mean, she’s quite good-looking and all that, buy you want someone a bit more cheerful.” (OotP 763) Cho is still grieving Cedric, and she wanted someone with whom she could commiserate. Harry needs a witch, no matter how good-looking, with whom he can laugh.
Rowling has now established that humour will be a key desired trait in any future romantic pairing for Harry. And the problem is, Harry doesn’t find Hermione to be that funny. This fact is explicitly stated during his falling out with Ron in fourth year. When Hermione accuses him of missing Ron, Harry denies it, but admits to himself that while he “...liked Hermione very much, she just wasn’t the same as Ron. There was much less laughter, and a lot more hanging around in the library when Hermione was your best friend.” (GoF 278) Hermione gives Harry many things, but she cannot fulfill his desire for humour.
Harry doesn’t find his best female friend to be a source for much comedy, and in the end he never entertains romantic feelings for her. The context of their relationship being non-sexual, the door is opened for another girl to come in and fill that role. And during his sixth year Harry discovers that he finds Ginny to be a source of constant hilarity.
When he is sixteen, Harry develops feelings for Ginny, but it isn’t her physical attributes that he spends the bulk of his time thinking about, rather it is her humour that is constantly referenced. It is notable that though this is the book where Harry and Ginny will start a romance, her first appearance is free of any flattering description. Instead Harry simply notes, “Ron’s younger sister slouched into the room, looking irritable.” (HBP 90)
This entrance is brought into stark contrast to the description given to Fleur only a few paragraphs down the page. Fleur is described as, “A woman of such breathtaking beauty that the room seemed to have become strangely airless. She was tall and willowy with long blonde hair and appeared to emanate a faint, silvery glow. To complete this vision of perfection, she was carrying a heavily laden breakfast tray.” (HBP 90) Despite the fact that Harry manages to inject humour into the part-Veela’s arrival, Fleur has never been purposely funny, and while Harry finds her attractive, he has never been sexually interested in her.
What makes Ginny stand out to Harry is her sense of humour.
The fact that Harry appreciates Ginny’s antics in the sixth book does have precedence in the rest of the series. Rowling gave examples in the past to show that their senses of humour matched. As early as the third book, despite still being largely unable to speak in front of him, Ginny and Harry share a moment. At the train station, “Ginny caught Harry’s eye and they both turned away to hide their laughter as Percy strode over to a girl with long, curly hair, walking with his chest thrown out so that she couldn’t miss his shiny badge.” (PoA 57-58)
Two years later, when they run into Gilderoy Lockhart on the Closed Ward, and he immediately offers them autographs, Harry shares a private joke with Ginny. The quiet exchange is described, “‘Hasn’t changed much, has he?’ Harry muttered to Ginny, who grinned.” (OotP 450) And again, at the end of the book, when Hermione struggles to swallow her natural inclination to argue with Luna over the existence of Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, “Ginny caught Harry’s eye and looked away quickly, grinning.” (OotP 747) Rowling has firmly established that despite the fact they don’t spend much time together, Ginny and Harry tend to find the same moments funny - and for the same reasons.
The foundation established - that Harry and Ginny both enjoy the same dark, dry humour - groundwork is laid for Ginny to fully catch Harry’s attention once he has the chance to get to spend more time with her.
Ginny’s wit is a trait that Harry immediately notices and enjoys during his stay at the Burrow the summer before his sixth year. Ginny doesn’t like Fleur very much, and she uses this disdain to make a rather dramatic exit after her first scene with Harry: “She swung her long red hair around in a very good imitation of Fleur and pranced across the room with her arms held aloft like a ballerina.” (HBP 94) Already, Harry appreciates Ginny’s wit as being deadly accurate. Later, after Fleur demonstrates her adoration of Bill, “Ginny mimed vomiting into her cereal behind Fleur. Harry choked over his cornflakes and Ron thumped him on the back.” (HBP 106) Ron’s younger sister has turned out to be very funny indeed.
Harry continues to revel in Ginny’s humour throughout the rest of the book. During an early Quidditch practice they have an exchange that could have been tense. Ginny calls Ron a prat and Harry feels she has overstepped her bounds. Harry corrects her, “‘And Ginny, don’t call Ron a prat, you’re not the captain of this team -’ / ‘Well, you seemed to busy to call him a prat and I thought someone should -’ / Harry forced himself not to laugh.” (HBP 267) Ginny makes Harry laugh even when he worries it might not be entirely proper. The examples are numerous - the one constant in his scenes with Ginny is she almost always does something to amuse him.
The one instance that stands out the most, however, occurs after they have come together as a couple. Sitting together in the common room, they have the following conversation:
“‘Three Dementor attacks in a week, and all Romida Vane does is ask me if it’s true you’ve got a Hippogriff tattooed across your chest.’
‘What did you tell her?’
‘I told her it’s a Hungarian Horntail,’ said Ginny, turning a page of newspaper idly. ‘Much more macho.’
‘Thanks,’ said Harry, grinning. ‘And what did you tell her Ron’s got?’
‘A Pygmy Puff, but I didn’t say where.’” (HBP 500)
Ginny is being her usual witty self, but there is one key difference - Harry is feeding her the lines to set up her final joke. Not only are they funny individually, but their sense of humour is one and the same, and they play extremely well together.
Or course Harry has found other people in his life to be extremely funny - notably Ron and the twins. It is not strictly humour alone that does the trick - it must be admitted that it does also help that Ginny is an attractive girl.
Harry finds Ginny to be more than satisfactory to his male gaze. During one of the later Quidditch practises Ginny puts on quite a show, doing imitations of both Harry and Ron. And, “Harry, laughing with the others, was glad to have an innocent reason to look at Ginny; he had received several more Bludger injuries during practise because he had not been keeping his eyes on the Snitch.” (HBP 485) Harry enjoys looking at Ginny very much - to the point of distracting himself from his favourite game and even risking personal injury.
Harry always found Ginny to be physically appealing. As early as twelve years old he remarks on her “bright brown eyes” (CoS 35) and “flaming red hair.” (CoS 226) Even amidst tragedy, Harry has thought of Ginny in very attractive terms. During Harry’s fifth year, Arthur Weasley is attacked and Harry spends the night with the Weasley siblings and Sirius. Rowling describes each of the other people in the room and notes that, “Ginny was curled like a cat on her chair, but her eyes were open; Harry could see them reflecting the firelight.” (OotP 423) It’s a lovely, even romantic image, and while Harry may not be sexually attracted to her yet, he does find Ginny to be quite pleasant to look at.
Harry seems quite distracted with Ginny’s hair - it earns numerous mentions throughout the series. The fact that he finds it one of her most attractive assets is confirmed when he mentions it again in his sixth year - the year he discovers his sexual feelings for her. Early in the book Harry is disappointed when she leaves him alone on the train and he notes, “He felt a strange twinge of annoyance as she walked away, her long red hair dancing behind her.” (HBP 131) And again, even in battle, she stands out. When he is chasing after Snape he doesn’t stop for two bodies on the floor, but “Harry now saw red hair flying like flames in front of him,” (HBP 558) and he pauses long enough to assist his girlfriend.
Ginny is, and always has been, a pretty girl, but it is her humour that wins Harry over in the end. As Cho and Fleur amply demonstrated, being beautiful is not enough. It is the wicked combination of the two traits that pushes Ginny over the edge into Harry’s romantic favour.
The fact that it takes both humour and looks to win his interest also explains why it took so long for Harry to notice Ginny sexually. It is not until the fifth book that Ginny starts to become comfortable enough around him to be able to display her true personality - and Harry starts to notice her more. And it is not until the summer before Harry’s sixth year that he actually spends enough time in her presence to finally uncover the wonderful attribute that really gets him going.
And get him going it does. Ginny is the girl that causes Harry to have a response similar to the one he had upon meeting Cho. Ginny merely pats him on the arm and, “Harry felt a swooping sensation in his stomach...” (HBP 281) She picks a maggot from his hair and “Harry felt goosebumps erupt up his neck that had nothing to do with the maggot.” (HBP 318) These are the signs Rowling hinted at before as denoting the difference between normal contact and actual physical attraction.
This time around Harry’s level of sexual interest is even stronger - causing him to give it a physical description and personality in the monster that lives inside him. Harry doesn’t become consciously aware of his desire for Ginny until he spots her kissing Dean, and the monster is born. Rowling describes, “It was though something large and scaly erupted into life in Harry’s stomach, clawing at his insides...” (HBP 268) The creature makes several notable appearances, culminating in its “roaring in triumph...” (HBP 499) after Harry finally kisses Ginny and earns Ron’s silent consent.
The monster does partly represent Harry’s jealousy. During the scene with Dean it is noted that, “... hot blood seemed to flood his brain, so that all thought was extinguished, replaced by a savage urge to jinx Dean into a jelly.” (HBP 268) And shortly after, “...the new-born monster inside him was roaring for Dean’s instant dismissal from the team.” (HBP 268) The creature inside Harry seems quite eager to be rid of the competition.
But it is not jealousy alone, the monster is also a manifestation of Harry’s desire. When Harry imagines himself kissing Ginny, “...the monster in his chest purred...” (HBP 270) Much later, when Hermione brings news that Ginny and Dean had a fight, and Harry hopes it may mean the relationship is over, “The drowsing creature in Harry’s chest suddenly raised its head, sniffing the air hopefully.” (HBP 396) The monster is a fully realized metaphor for Harry’s most basic animal instincts.
Harry’s desire for Ginny is very strong - and the time he has with her is described as, “...something that was making him happier than he could remember being for a very long time.” (HBP 500) And later as, “...his best source of comfort.” (HBP 591) Harry and Ginny’s mutual physical attraction is doing what it is supposed to do - it makes him feel good. It gives Harry a well-earned period of joy.
It is clear that they want each other, but will the couple last?
Further to their sexual attraction, Harry and Ginny also have the other elements necessary for a long-term relationship - a shared value system and a working method of communication.
When he is eleven years old, Harry discovers the Mirror of Erised, and it reveals one of his greatest desires is family. Dumbledore explains how the mirror works stating, “It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you.” (PS 157) Harry has never known what it is like to truly have a family - and it is something he longs for desperately.
Ginny, with six siblings and parents who love Harry as one of their own, has family to spare. But more than that, she also demonstrates that family is extremely important to her with her reaction to Percy’s betrayal. When the twins and Ron tell Harry of Percy’s defection, specifically the things he said to their father, “...Ginny made a noise like an angry cat.” The following year, when Percy uses his relationship with his family to give the Minister access to Harry, Ginny fights for credit with the twins for hitting him in the face with mashed parsnip. (HBP 327) Ginny’s familial loyalty is very strong. One can assume that family will remain one of Ginny’s priorities in the future.
Ginny also shares Harry’s views on the necessity of destroying Voldemort and bringing an end to the hate and chaos he and his followers breed in the wizarding world. Like Harry she wants to be included in Order business - though she is denied by her mother. (OotP 87) And she is an active participant in Dumbledore’s Army. But it is Ginny’s statement to Harry, when he ends the relationship with her to continue his quest, that makes her opinion the most clear. She tells him, “I knew you wouldn’t be happy unless you were hunting Voldemort. Maybe that’s why I like you so much.” (HBP 603) Ginny and Harry have a shared view of the world - and peace is a priority.
Like their mutual value systems, Harry and Ginny also share an effective means of communication. This facet of their relationship was hinted at in Harry’s fifth year when Ginny brought him an Easter egg and he revealed his pent up desire to speak to Sirius. (OotP 577)
Their level of understanding is demonstrated even more strongly, however, after Dumbledore dies. The moment is described, “He did not want to leave Dumbledore’s side, he did not want to move anywhere. Hagrid’s hand on his shoulder was trembling. Then another voice said, ‘Harry, come on.’ / A much smaller and warmer hand had enclosed his and was pulling him upwards. He obeyed its pressure without really thinking about it.” (HBP 570) When Harry is in crisis mode, Ginny is the one who gets through.
Even more importantly, Harry and Ginny are honest with each other. Harry decides that in order to complete his quest to destroy Voldemort, he must end his relationship with Ginny. Harry confesses, “It’s been like ... like something out of someone else’s life, these last few weeks with you ... But I can’t ... we can’t ... I’ve got things to do alone now.” (HBP 602) Rather than lying to her, or pushing her away without explanation, he quite plainly tells her his reasons and precisely how important she is to him.
Ginny, in return, makes a confession of her own. She responds by telling Harry, “I never really gave up on you ... Not really. I always hoped ...” (HBP 603) Harry is breaking up with her. She could have responded in anger, or attempted to protect herself. Instead she accepts his decision and reveals that she has cared for him all along.
Even before he gives her the news though, Harry intuitively knows it is going to be okay. Just before he tells Ginny of his decision, Rowling explains that Harry “...knew that at that moment they understood each other perfectly, and that when he told her what he was going to do now, she would not say ‘Be careful’, or ‘Don’t do it’, but accept his decision, because she would not have expected anything less of him.” (HBP 602) Because they share the same values and have come to know each other so well, Harry can anticipate Ginny’s reaction in advance - and has the confidence to communicate with her honestly, even though what he has to say will hurt them both.
Harry and Ginny have an intense sexual attraction - based, in a large part, on a shared sense of humour. They have a similar value system and communicate extremely effectively. These are all keys to forming a healthy long-term relationship. Are there any possible concerns?
There could be some worry over the fact that at times Ginny’s humour can be biting, even a little mean. She refers to Fleur as Phlegm behind her back, bringing about the somewhat gross exchange, “‘I wouldn’t go in the kitchen just now,’ she warned him. ‘There’s a lot of Phlegm around.’ / ‘I’ll be careful not to slip in it,’ smiled Harry” (HBP 126)
A few months later, when Ron and Harry catch her kissing Dean, and Ron comes dangerously close to calling her a slut, Ginny lays into him. Ginny is merciless, ripping into Ron about his own lack of experience. She accuses him, “Been kissing Pigwidgeon, have you? Or have you got a picture of Aunt Muriel stashed under your pillow?” (HBP 269) It is very clear that Ginny is more than willing to use humour as a deadly part of her arsenal when she is angry.
It should be noted, however, that this aspect of Ginny’s personality is actually very similar to Harry’s own behaviour. Harry has always used his sense of humour against people he is angry with or doesn’t like.
The most obvious example is Dudley. In the first book, before Harry learns of Hogwarts, Dudley teases him about the local comprehensive. “‘They stuff people’s heads down the toilet first day at Stonewall,’ he told Harry. ‘Want to come upstairs to practise?’ / ‘No thanks,’ said Harry. ‘The poor toilet’s never had anything as horrible as your head down it - it might be sick.’” (PS 28) A few years later, when Dudley claims he had the right to beat up a ten-year-old because he cheeked him, Harry replies, “Yeah? Did he say you look like a pig that’s been taught to walk on its hind legs? ‘Cause that’s not cheek, Dud, that’s true.” (OotP 17) Unable to use magic during the summers, Harry easily resorts to his oldest survival mechanism to deal with the enormous bully Dudley.
In fact, Harry’s reliance on humour has become so instinctive by the sixth book, he doesn’t even think before he uses it. During his first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson, Harry and Snape have the following exchange:
“‘Do you remember me telling you we are practising non-verbal spells, Potter?’
‘Yes,’ said Harry stiffly.
‘There’s no need to call me “sir”, Professor.’
The words had escaped him before he knew what he was saying. Several people gasped, including Hermione. Behind Snape, however, Ron, Dean and Seamus grinned appreciatively.” (HBP 171)
When angered, Harry turns to the device which has served him so well all his life, even when it isn’t necessarily in his best interests and earns him detention.
Harry isn’t even shy about using his wit in fights with his closest friends. When Harry’s name comes out of the Goblet of Fire, he and Ron stop speaking for a time - largely due to Ron’s jealousy. One night they have a fight and Harry throws a Potter Really Stinks badge at Ron’s head and sarcastically quips, “There you go ... Something for you to wear on Tuesday. You might even have a scar now, if you’re lucky ... that’s what you want, isn’t it?” (GoF 294) Ron’s insecurity about his place in the world has caught up with him - he is angry with Harry because he worries he is only the sidekick, never having any attention for himself. And recognition is something he yearns for. Harry knows this - Hermione has tried to explain it to him. But he isn’t afraid to use biting sarcasm to throw that insecurity back in Ron’s face when he is very angry with him.
In this respect, the way Harry and Ginny both use their humour as a weapon - they are evenly matched. They both have the same dark, dry wit and they are not afraid to us it when it suits them. Ginny’s possible fault in no way makes her unworthy of Harry - it is a behaviour pattern he shares with her.
It is likely they could turn this weapon on each other - every couple fights eventually. It may work out, however, that they would be less hurt by a defence mechanism they both use and understand. Also, their rather mature emotional honesty to date indicates they would survive any squabbles fairly well.
Harry did not end the relationship with Ginny because he did not want to be with her any more. Quite the contrary, he still longs to be with her, so much so he “...did not think his resolution would hold if he remained sitting beside her.” (HBP 603) One of Harry’s primary desires is for humour. Ginny meets that need perfectly and as a result they share a very strong sexual attraction. As a couple they also have a similar value system, and honest and open communication. As a result, if Harry and Ginny both survive the war with Voldemort, they seem to have a very good chance of sharing a healthy, happy, long-term romantic relationship.
Where does that leave Hermione Granger? While Harry longs for humour, Hermione has demonstrated that she has a very passionate desire for debate. Perhaps this source of pleasure explains why she has chosen Ron Weasley as her sparring partner.
Notes: I am aware of an essay at the Lexicon – published here D'you Really Think They're Suited? - which addresses why Harry and Hermione do not make a well-suited couple. That essay goes on at some length as to how Harry and Hermione’s humour do not match, and if you are looking for further examples, you can find them there. It also addresses other ways, such as communication, in which they are not suited. The purpose of this essay was to establish a more direct link between humour and Harry’s sexual attraction – and to instead focus on how Ginny meets those desires and as a result IS suited.